MPAA Rating: PG
USCCB Rating: A-II
Reel Rating: 3 out of 5 reels
Frozen II is a very good film but never comes close to the brilliance of its processor. It’s rougher, less sophisticated, and often aimless. But it is nonetheless extremely entertaining, which is what a seven-year old cares about most.
The story begins three years after Elsa’s tantrum and Anna’s sacrifice, and everyone has settled into their Disney-mandated roles. Elsa wears fabulous clothes and continues to provide the kingdom with ice-filled distractions. Anna loves to pull pranks and be adorable. Kristof is trying to find the courage to propose to Anna, while Sven and Olaf provide comic relief. Without warning, Elsa begins to hear a strange voice singing in the distance while terrifying forces of nature (earthquakes, gale force winds, etc.) begin attacking Arendelle, forcing its citizens to flee to the mountains. Thus, our brave heroes must venture forth on a quest to the Enchanted Forest discover the source of these anomalies and save the Kingdom.
What transpires over the next ninety minutes is enjoyable, but often confusing. The story changes rapidly as more and more subplots and themes are added. None of the story is original, but few films have tried to combine so many cinematic tropes. There were echoes of Field of Dreams, Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Wave, Interstellar, The Fifth Element, and 80s hair band power ballads. This is easily Frozen II’s biggest flaw. To outshine the original, the filmmakers have tried to fit a million ideas into one movie. Some of these subplots are painful to watch. In Frozen, Olaf’s dreams of being “in summer” was a highlight. His solo in Frozen II about “growing up” works neither with the central plot nor his own development. Sidekicks don’t mature, and neither do enchanted anthropomorphic snowpals.
The primary narrative touches on one of the oldest debates in Christian literature: the proper use of pagan imagery. Elsa discovers that her mother and father were involved in a war with a previously unknown tribe in the Enchanted Forest that could harness the four elements of nature. Elsa must learn to tame each of these forces to bring peace between Arendelle and the natives, including harnessing the mysterious fifth element (no, it’s not a giant blue alien). The secret revelation pays homage to a central pantheistic tenet. While the pagan tropes are much stronger here than before, the central values are still Christocentric, although no longer explicitly so. Anna sings a beautiful song about “doing the next right thing” when desolation makes discernment difficult. Elsa discovers its better to do things with the support of one’s family instead of alone (something she should really have learned from the first movie).
Despite these quibbles about its story, Frozen II is still high caliber entertainment. The visuals are dazzling, especially the water animation. The dialogue is often clever, but sadly the songs are underwhelming. The one notable exception is “Lost in the Woods,” which is Kristoff’s bittersweet mediation on the complications of love. It puts “Let It Go” to shame. (Yes, I said it!) It’s also the silliest track, which illustrates an underlining problem. When the film tries to be profound, it whimpers, but when it is content to just have fun, it soars – and occasionally is profound anyway.
After the disaster of Toy Story 4, I was ready to write Disney off. Frozen II hasn’t exactly restored my confidence, but it shows that good work is still possible. It remains to be seen if Disney animation’s best days are behind them, but for now, I’ll take it.
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